> 18th Century European Thought and the Nature-Culture Problem in Advanced Techno-Scientific Societies 1- 4 September 2004 > An International Symposium, University of Helsinki > > RENEWED CALL FOR PAPERS > > The following call for papers has been published in October 2003. There has been great interest for the symposium. However, we have still a few slots for additional papers, and the organisers have decided to extend the dead-line for abstracts until 31st March 2004. > > The background > > Modern industrial society has maintained a double attitude toward nature since the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. On the one hand, striving to gain technological control of nature it has produced what Bruno Latour has called technological hybrids: amalgamations of nature and culture. On the other hand, with respect to human life it has maintained a separation between the two spheres. Contradictory from the start, the principle of separation between culture and nature has ended up in a crisis as the result of global techno-scientific advancement. Scientists, clinicians and engineers have successfully “humanised” nature, including human life, to the point where the major practical constraints of its regulation are cost, morality and human behaviour, i.e. the social and not the natural. > > This crisis is poignant particularly in areas where the technological amalgamation of nature and culture concerns humans themselves. Human life itself can no longer be taken as ‘natural’, because life-controlling technologies compel us to make choices about it: what kind of life is desirable and what is not. Birth and death are not absolute notions any more, and human genetic engineering is considerably expanding the already wide domain where future life depends on knowledge and decision. We know a great deal about body and mind and about healthy living, and in contemporary society we are constantly faced with the need to make decisions on how to take this knowledge into consideration. > > 18th century European thought is interesting from today’s perspective, because in its course the split between culture and nature was emerging, and the social sciences were still not distinct disciplines. The concept of the state of nature in early modern contract theories, Adam Smith’s theories of moral sentiments and the economy, Rousseau’s ideas concerning the natural man, and Diderot’s holistic materialism are examples of streams of thought that from today’s perspective are relevant and instructive in view of our need to reconsider the relationships of the social and the natural. Still in our contemporary social thought we observe the tendency to demonise nature as the “other” of culture: something raw, primitive or impure – epithets that have been latent in social thought since the Enlightenment. But Enlightenment also gave birth to the opposite idea: the romantic tendency to valorise nature against the deforming effects of society, which is equally important in contemporary social criticism. > > Goals > > The symposium aims at bringing to light the freshness and diversity of European Enlightenment thought on pertinent moral and theoretical issues that we are currently facing in social life. The modern dualism of nature and culture is disturbing but also more recent and limited in scope than is often thought. The objective of the symposium is to increase social scientists’ awareness of the European Enlightenment tradition and to clarify the perspectives in the intellectual history of social sciences. > > Participants > > The symposium is intended for social scientists and historians who are interested in 18th century thought from contemporary perspective in contexts such as moral issues